Why Do Carp Jump? Interesting Facts

Anyone who has spent enough time around a lake has probably spotted carp jumping out of the water. To many anglers, there is no more glorious sight than seeing a specimen carp launching itself out of the water.

It is, after all, one of the reasons anglers enjoy fishing, to see these wonderful fish. But let’s be honest, we’ve all wondered at some point why carp jump out of the water.

In this article, we take a look at exactly what causes this behavior and how you can even potentially use it to your advantage if you are an angler looking to hook one of these beautiful fish.

There are usually three main reasons carp jump out of the water:

  1. Anatomical reasons
  2. Personal hygiene reasons
  3. For pure fun

We will now look at each of these reasons in a bit more detail before moving on to some of the different types of jumping you might see carp doing.


The most common cause of carp jumping out of the water is anatomical. Fish have something called swim bladders which control their buoyancy in the water. This is important because it allows them to swim at different depths.

When a carp travels from deep down up towards the surface, the pressure on their swim bladder increases and so by jumping out of the water and expelling air from their swim bladder, the pressure is relieved, and the carp can then swim properly nearer the surface.

Biologically speaking, the swim bladder is connected to the esophagus.

When carp do their jumping thing, they are forcing air in or out of the swim bladder through their esophagus, which then allows them to change depths when they re-enter the water.

The reason you don’t really see carp jumping in shallow waters is because the water is not that deep which means that even on the bottom, the pressure isn’t so great that the carp needs to adjust its swim bladders. Furthermore, carp can reach new depths without having to jump out of the water.

Personal Hygiene

Another reason carp jump out of the water is to clean out their gills. It is the equivalent of you or me taking a shower.

Carp are usually bottom feeders. As they are sucking up food from the bed of the lake or river it is quite common for them to get dirt and debris stuck in their gills.

The carp jumps up and out of the water and, as it heads back down, the water breaks through their gills and washes away any debris that may be lingering there.

There are a number of parasites that latch onto carp. Doing their jumping thing can help them rid themselves of these parasites by forcefully washing out their gills as they hit the water at speed.

For Pure Fun

There are many aquatic species, fish and mammals, that like to simply have fun in the water. Dolphins, for example, are well-known to jump for pure fun and, just in case you are wondering, no dolphins are not fish. They are warm-blooded mammals!

That’s right, who says a carp can’t just jump for pure fun?

As any angler will tell you, there are some days when carp spend the entire day jumping up and out of the water, and yet no one around the lake gets a single bite. The fish are clearly not feeding on such days so why are they jumping?

For pure fun!

carp fish

The Different Types of Jumping Carp Do

Carp jump in a number of different ways and by paying close attention to how they are jumping, anglers can glean valuable insights that potentially help them land one.

There are commonly four main types of jump. There is no real consensus on the terminology for these jumps so here we will refer to them as:

  • The Full Glorious Jump
  • The Half-hearted Jump
  • The Peekaboo
  • The Roll

The Full Glorious Jump

  • This is when a carp jumps high out of the water before splashing back down hard and fast.
  • There are one of two reasons for carp jumping high out of the water like this, either they are just plain having fun or they have been bottom-feeding and they are trying to clean out their gills by hitting the water with as much force as possible.
  • If you spot carp jumping in this fashion it could be worth fishing the bottom near where you see them jumping.

The Half-hearted Jump

  • This is where the carp just jumps high enough to almost get its entire body out of the water but not quite.
  • Again, it is an interesting jump to watch for because it could be the carp adjusting its swim bladder in order to go deeper in search of food.
  • If you spot a carp doing this, wait to see if you spot the fish again but remember the position because they may well be feeding on the bed below.

The Peekaboo

  • This is when a carp just sticks its head above the water.
  • It is usually taken as a sign that the carp is feeding and is coming to surface simply to clean its gills before going back for more.
  • If you spot a carp doing this, start fishing the area straight away. It is one of the strongest indicators of feeding there is.

The Roll

  • This is when the carp comes to the surface and rolls over making a little splash. You are likely to see carp doing this in small groups.
  • This is usually a sign of the carp migrating to different parts of the lake or river.
  • If you spot carp doing this, it is not really a sign they are feeding and, in fact, they are probably on the move.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has given you a clearer understanding of what makes carp jump. By understanding this, you can up your game and increase your chances of catching a lovely specimen!

Good luck!

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Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!